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Gov't shutdown: Senate to vote on short-term spending bill to avoid shutdown

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What remained was a familiar so's-your-mother partisan spat, with trillions of federal dollars - more than $3 billion for disaster victims - at stake.

Democrats complained that it's unprecedented and unfair to insist that spending cuts accompany badly needed emergency aid. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who earlier in the week had said passage of the bill was urgent, on Friday put off a vote until Monday. The only option, he said, was to "capitulate to the job-destroying bill" from the House.

While Warner joined those blaming tea party-driven House Republicans, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., pointed to Reid. "He manufactured a crisis all week about disaster when there's no crisis," Alexander told CNN. He accused Democrats of "chest-pounding and game-playing."

Republicans say that with a $14 trillion-plus national debt, voters will find it outrageous that Democrats wouldn't accept $1.6 billion in spending cuts.

Democrats, they said, had not learned the lesson of the 2010 elections, when tea party-backed conservatives won enough seats to give Republicans control of the House.

"We are sending a message to people that freezing spending is paramount," said one of those GOP freshmen, Michigan Rep. Bill Huizenga.

Democrats, meanwhile, are betting voters will find it petty and manipulative to let tornado and hurricane victims wonder if federal aid will be denied because lawmakers want to cut aid to automakers.It's possible that Congress will find a last-minute way to avoid a shutdown of many federal agencies when the fiscal year ends on Friday. The Senate plans to vote Monday on a Democratic bill that would not require spending offsets to release new money for FEMA.

But GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is confident Republicans will block the Democrats' move. It takes 41 votes to sustain a filibuster in the 100-member Senate, and the Republicans hold 47 seats.

If the GOP succeeds, the Senate could accept the House Republican bill it rejected on Friday. Or legislative leaders could try to negotiate their way past the logjam. House leaders said they don't plan to call their members back to Washington.

Still looming is the rest of the debt-limit deal. By Thanksgiving, a supercommittee of 12 House and Senate Democrats and Republicans must produce $1.5 trillion in cuts over the next decade. If they stumble, or Congress rejects their proposal, automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion would kick in, slashing domestic and defense programs. Congress is slated to vote on that package by the end of the year.

 

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